NBC News Fires Arnett Over Iraqi TV Interview
New York Times
Monday 31 March 2003
BC News today fired Peter Arnett, a correspondent based in Baghdad, saying it was wrong for him to have given an interview with the state-run Iraqi TV in which he said coalition forces had "failed because of Iraqi resistance."
Mr. Arnett, on NBC's "Today" show, said he was sorry for his statement, but added, "I said over the weekend what we all know about the war."
He went on, "I want to apologize to the American people for clearly making a misjudgment."
NBC and National Geographic defended Mr. Arnett on Sunday, saying he gave the interview, which he saw as analysis, "out of professional courtesy."
But today, after speaking with the president of NBC News, Neal Shapiro, the network said it could no longer work with Mr. Arnett, The Associated Press reported.
"It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV, especially at a time of war," an NBC spokeswoman, Allison Gollust, said. "And it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview."
NBC TV also said today that Mr. Arnett would not be reporting for the MSNBC show "The National Geographic Explorer" either.
Iraqi television showed the interview at least twice on Sunday afternoon. CNN and Fox News Channel showed excerpts on Sunday night.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, said on Fox News Channel that she found the interview "nauseating." She added, "It's incredible he would be kowtowing to what clearly is the enemy in this way."
Asked if they would allow their reporters to be interviewed by Iraqi television in the current climate, CNN and Fox News Channel said they would not; CBS said it probably would not. An ABC News spokesman would say only that its freelance correspondent in Baghdad, Richard Engel, is "out there getting interviews, not giving them."
Mr. Arnett was a CNN correspondent in Baghdad during the Persian Gulf war in 1991. The Iraqis evicted all major Western television correspondents except Mr. Arnett. Iraqi officials said then that Mr. Arnett had "proven impartiality."
In the interview, Mr. Arnett said American war planners had failed to pay attention to his reporting. "In my commentaries on television I would tell the Americans about the determination of the Iraqi forces, the determination of the government, and the willingness to fight for their country," he said.
Several network executives criticized Mr. Arnett for praising Iraqi officials for their cooperation with the news media. Iraq has ordered a number of journalists, including those from CNN and Fox News, to leave the country.
Two Newsday reporters disappeared after being expelled and the newspaper has raised the possibility that they are being held by Iraqi authorities.
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